Bill Whalen: Politi-Cal

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Obama Heads South

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SF avoids this sort of LA traffic snarl

President Obama has done something for San Francisco which, for one of the few times in his young presidency, didn’t involve pushing the nation deeper in debt.

Faced with the daunting task of pulling off  a downtown fundraiser in the City by the Bay, coinciding with the fifth game of the Giants-Phillies series (a late-afternoon start on Thursday), Obama moved his money-raising operation down the road to Palo Alto and Atherton.

In doing so, Obama avoids the same nightmare that occurred a couple of months in Los Angeles, when security concerns surrounding a presidential fundraiser closed roads and left Angelenos on the city’s West Side stuck in a hellish rush-hour commute.

Obama can get away with this kind of stunt in a deep-blue state like California. But do it often in a purple state like Virginia or Colorado, and locals will be see red — and voting “red” — in 2012.

So much for the logistical headaches of cramming a presidential visit and a playoff game in a 49-square-mile city that’s anything but auto-friendly.

Still, the new venues raise a couple of questions.

1) Does the President have any high-profile, highly visible friends in Silicon Valley other than Google?

As a candidate, he visited Google’s main campus in Mountain View.  As president, he’s made it a point to include Google CEO Eric Schmidt in White House events.  Now, as the head of a party and trying to stave off a midterm disaster, he’ll be pitching for dollars at the Palo Alto home of Google v.p. Marissa Mayer.

Yes, Google is young, hip and idealistic — all part of the Obama image machine . But surely there are other firms and stars-in-their-eyes tech execs who’d love to show the love.

(btw, not everyone believes there’s an Obama-Google love affair . . .)

Presidential fundraiser host Steve Westly

2) The curious case of Steve Westly, Obama’s Atherton host.

In addition to having served as California co-chair of Obama’s presidential effort, he’s a former State Controller and runner-up in the 2006 Democratic gubernatorial primary.

Given his willingness to host a presidential fundraiser and his street cred as a candidate and officeholder, one might assume that Westly would be a team player — i.e., a willing-and-able surrogate for Jerry Brown’s gubernatorial campaign.

Make that the perfect surrogate to rip into Meg Whitman, since Westly once was eBay’s senior v.p of marketing, biz development, m&a and international. As Westly’s bio states, he “helped guide the online auction company . . . through its period of most rapid growth” and  “helped bring eBay to Europe and Asia and developed the marketing and acquisition strategies that paved the path for the firm’s exponential growth.”

So why the silence? Is it professional courtesy (I don’t recall Whitman having much to say about Westly back in 2006, so perhaps he’s returning the favor)? Or is it that, by attacking Whitman, he’d instead draw attention to the company’s success? Or yet any theory: is Westly purposely lying low  in this election, waiting to see how things shake out for the next two campaign cycles (Brown winning or losing; Dianne Feinstein staying put or leaving the U.S. Senate in 2012)?

One last question: with Obama coming to Atherton, what are the chances of noted Athertonian Meg Whitman getting stuck in traffic?

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Written by Bill Whalen

October 20, 2010 at 6:13 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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